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Movies Change Lives

Pedagogy of Constructive Humanistic Transformation Through Cinema


Tony Kashani

Movies Change Lives is a rigorous interdisciplinary examination of cinema as a vehicle for personal and social transformation. Interdisciplinary scholar Tony Kashani builds a theory of humanistic transformation by discussing many movies while engaging the works of philosopher/psychologist Erich Fromm, cultural studies theorist Stuart Hall, critical pedagogy theorist Henry Giroux, political philosopher Hannah Arendt, the great French thinker Edgar Morin, the pioneering psychologist Carl Jung, the co-founder of string theory, physicist Michio Kaku, and Frankfurt School philosopher Jürgen Habermas, among others. The book argues that in the globalized world of the twenty-first century, humanity is in dire need of personal and social transformation. Movies have universal appeal and can deeply affect their audiences in a short time. Coupled with critical pedagogy, they can become tools of personal and social transformation. Movies Change Lives is an ideal text for graduate and upper-division undergraduate courses on film (cinema) and society, visual culture, consciousness studies, transformative studies, media and social change, advanced personal and social psychology, and political philosophy.
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Introduction. The Need for Humanistic Change


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The Need for Humanistic Change

In 1996 Dolly, a sheep that was cloned from an adult cell, was born. This historical scientific achievement gave birth to a myriad of ethical debates on a global scale, which continue to this day. Reflective people around the world are asking a not-so-science-fictional question: What if we lived in a society in which the government mandated parents to select their best genes to produce their children? If those children happened to have the genes to have the best positions in society, then they would be the members of the ruling class. For others, they would be assigned to various service jobs and have lower socioeconomic status. This, in effect, would produce a sort of biological caste system.

Scientific debates among the ethicists and experts in the medical field tend to become boring, and people often tune them out. But do people tune out entertaining science fiction movies that have these debates in their plot structure? There is in fact a movie that tackles the “what if” question of human cloning in a very clever fashion. Gattaca (Niccol, 1997) is a story about an American society in the not-so-distant future that is structured with a biological caste system. Those with the right genes are known as “valids” and those with the inferior genes are the “in-valids.” Our Promethean hero, Vincent, played by Ethan Hawke, who is an in-valid, decides to swim against the current and...

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